Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shared Experiences

I have this battle waging when I blog - I want to share personal stories but really take great care to avoid naming names, especially when it comes to family. I recoil from bloggers who write sensitive material about their closest friends and family - not appropriate in my figurative book. For today, I'll use a Kafkaesque "first initial" construct to tell my tales.

R. has been very much into the music scene lately. He's the one who got harassed at the Woodstock Museum last month (Back to the Garden?, July 22). In no way did that mar the Woodstock experience for him. We've been dedicated to getting through the giant 40th Anniversary DVD set of the Festival and watched the director's cut Friday and Saturday.

Now, I've loved and enjoyed my kids at every age, but don't let people fool you that the teenage years are the toughest. They have their pitfalls, no doubt, but, maybe because I still feel viscerally connected to that age, I'm getting a lot of fun out of this time. So, when R. and I watch 3-4 hours of Woodstock, and I can share with him some musical history, it's top notch father-son time.

We are so different in one way. R. just came back from a fossil trip in Wyoming and he totally digs (pun intended) being out in a dry, hot, dusty, dirty fossil formation, chiseling away all day in pursuit of a find. Not me. I firmly believe in the power of indoors. As we observed the hippies sliding in the mud, it was clear that R. would not have been averse to being there. He told me that he and his best friend talk often about how awesome it would have been to be at Woodstock. I can't say the same, but I admire where he's coming from.

I've written about N., our autistic oldest, and will probably write more as he embarks on his college "adventure" (as he calls it). Last week, while the rest of our crew was hammering dirt out west, N. and I went to New York. He's easy to please. His demands centered around pizza, deli and museums. I could pick the places.

Driving down from Cooperstown, the GPS decided to take us via Route 17. I was willing to follow. I hadn't been that way in decades, but it was the path I used to take from Staten Island to Binghamton. It was very evocative and put me in a nostalgic frame of mind. When we stopped for a bathroom break, the trip back in time was nailed down when I saw a giant Hostess Coffee Cake. We've been back East for over six years but I'd not seen one of those beauties yet. They are positively Proustian in their ability to take me right back to my youth, a Madeleine, Brooklyn-style. With the first bite and I could see myself sitting on my bike with its green banana seat and cushy back rest, driving down Canarsie ramps to the driveways below. (I do prefer them chilled, though. The cakes, not the driveways).

N. and I had a great time at Lombardi's, then Ferrara's, where he surreptitiously ordered himself a second dessert of gelato. Then, off to the UN Plaza, a side trip to Macy's Herald Square where I browsed cut price CDs as he pored through bargain DVDS. Down to the 2nd Ave. Deli for dinner and, next day, The Morgan Museum. While N. is not the greatest conversationalist around, he's always a hoot to hang with and we had a blast at some of my old stomping grounds.

My youngest, J., is an excellent musician and last night he had a slot in a local variety show. J. played "Just Like a Woman" on guitar. (I kept busting his chops all week - "Don't you do everything 'just like a woman'?" I promised I would heckle him, but didn't). He was great. Though he had the words memorized, the Dylan lyric book was on the floor beside him just in case. When he forget some of the second verse, he threw back his head and yelled, "Oh God!" It was so sweet and, even though he had already won over the crowd, they were in the palm of his hand from then on. He nailed it.

Sitting at the back of the Pierstown Grange Hall, I couldn't help marvel at what J. was doing and that he was my son. That's sort of the theme of each day. Here are these three near adults - 13, 16 and 19 - and they are my kids. Not just children who I love, that goes without saying, but a bunch of guys whose company I seek out and revel in. That's no small feat, to raise children you genuinely like and choose to be with. I'm very lucky and know it.

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